Opinion

Wilhelmina Shrimpton: It's about time we admit our health system has a serious problem

If I was a nurse I’d be feeling pretty flat today. 

Not only because I was tired, overworked, and burnt out … but because our Health Minister Andrew Little tried to tell me yesterday on this show that the very organisation tasked with protecting nurses rights has no credibility. 

"What I give no credibility to is an organisation paid by those front line workers and actually obstruct a really useful measure, lifting nurses pay, that would actually make that problem much easier to deal with.

"They are obstructing getting nurses a significant pay increase through the pay equity deal."

That was Andrew Little using gripes over pay negotiations to try and discredit the New Zealand Nurses Organisation's claim we’re in the middle of a health crisis.

Our Health Minister is saying they shouldn’t be believed because of things that happened during salary talks. 

But this isn’t about pay, this is about resource, and a serious lack of it. 

Whether or not you like the NZNO’s stance on pay, they are the voice of many of the country’s frontline nurses … and right now they’re screaming for help. 

So if our nurses can’t be believed, does that mean our GPs can’t as well? Because we have to remember it’s not just nurses calling it a crisis - doctors are too. 

Many are fearful of the mistakes they could make because they’re so overworked, many have thousands of patients on their roster, and many are burnt out. 

The NZ College of GPs says there are some parts of the country where there’s just 1 GP to every 3500 patients, when it should really be 1 to every 1400. 

Then there’s the lengthy wait times in our Emergency departments. 

So why won’t the minister call it what it is? 

He told me yesterday it’s just a system “under pressure” … because not every hospital is experiencing the same pressure as others. 

He also told me he’s not interested in names and labels, but most people know the first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem. 

I think it’s time to admit we’ve got one.  

This isn’t about the negotiating table, this is about people’s lives. 

If we don’t do something now, we could lose more of them.